What Others Are Saying

A review of this week’s news from the Arab English Language Press and from the UK.

The American University in Beirut hosts Israel apartheid week

American University of Beirut

The Daily Star Lebanon reported this past Wednesday: This week, Lebanon, a wary neighbor to Israel and home to some 400,000 Palestinian refugees, is taking up the call long demanded by anti-Zionist activists. The American University of Beirut (AUB) is hosting the first Israeli Apartheid Week ever held in the Arab world outside of Palestine. Between March 1 and March 6, AUB will host debates, film screenings, art workshops and visits to refugee camps in the hopes of mobilizing “the next generation of students in the spirit of resistance to apartheid and injustice,” according to the Israeli Apartheid Week website. Today, Israeli Apartheid Weeks take place in over 40 cities across the world, from Caracas, Venezuela to Melbourne, Australia. The week forms the symbolic backbone of the BDS movement, with South African anti-apartheid activists also playing a role. Last year, Former African National Congress member Ronnie Kasrils inaugurated events in New York, London, and Toronto. “The importance of coordinated Israeli Apartheid Weeks around the globe is that it shows international solidarity with Palestinians living under occupation and in exile,” said Matthew Cassel, who is moderating a talk about Israeli apartheid policies later this week. “As the so-called ‘international community’ remains silent to Israel’s numerous violations of international law, it’s important that those of us who care about peace and justice continue to make our voices heard.”

Hate war on Britain’s campuses to be ‘stamped out.’  There is now a ‘virus of extremism’ on Britain’s university campuses that is at risk of turning into a pandemic

The UK Jewish Chronicle reports this week: British Board of Deputies agree an ‘uncompromising’ plan to stamp out extremism sweeping universities There is now a “virus of extremism” on Britain’s university campuses that is at risk of turning into a pandemic, according to the Board of Deputies. Growing parental concern at the safety of Jewish students at UK universities has led the community leadership to take the unprecedented step of developing an official strategy for combating extremism on campus. The strategy draws on recent experience of campaigning against extremist Muslim speakers at Manchester and London universities who are known to hold views deeply hostile to Israel. A five-point action plan can be revealed for the first time here:

● Proactive monitoring of visits from extremists with the co-operation of the Community Security Trust and the Union of Jewish Students.

● Immediate, vigorous response to any visits that do take place, including warnings to vice-chancellors on the track record of extremists.

● Withholding the use of university premises by extremists.

● Insistence that participants sign strict written undertakings that hate speech will not be used and agree to filming by university authorities.

● Increased pressure on ministers to tackle extremism while working closely with the Grant Inquiry into campus radicalisation.

At the same time, guidance on the limits of free speech is currently being developed by the Board and the CST.

And in an article “Call over university anti-semitism” published by Britain’s Press Association: Ministers were urged to cut funds to universities that fail to tackle anti-semitism.

Denis MacShane

Former [British] foreign office minister Denis MacShane (Rotherham) made the suggestion during Commons question time. He said: “Will you consider reducing funds to those universities which fail to take action to stop the propagation of Jew-hate and anti-semitism on campus?” Higher education minister David Lammy acknowledged it is a “very serious issue”. He said: “We must remain vigilant. I don’t believe that there is a widespread problem across British universities in relation to this, but I recognise that it is patchy and we must be vigilant and not allow anti-semitism anywhere on campuses in this country.”





Syria suggests Israel planted nuclear traces by air

The Jordan Times reported on Friday, March 5:  Syria suggested on Thursday that Israel dropped uranium particles onto Syrian soil from the air to make it look as if a covert nuclear weapons plant was being built there, diplomats at a UN nuclear watchdog meeting said.

Damascus has strongly denied US intelligence that a complex in the Syrian desert bombed to ruins by Israel in 2007 had been a nascent nuclear reactor, North Korean in design and geared to making plutonium for atomic bombs.

But International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) chief Yukiya Amano last month lent independent support to Western suspicions for the first time by saying uranium traces found in a 2008 visit by inspectors pointed to nuclear-related activity on the ground.

He said Syria was still refusing to let the IAEA re-examine the Deir Alzour site, take swipe samples from rubble removed immediately to an unknown location after the air strike, and check three other sites under military control whose look was altered by landscaping after inspectors asked for access.

[Arab] League okays ‘last’ indirect Mideast talks

The Kuwait Times reports, March 4: Arab foreign ministers agreed yesterday to back one last round of indirect Palestinian-Israeli talks despite scepticism over Israel’s readiness to revive peace efforts, Arab League chief Amr Moussa said. The move, which came after months of US-led shuttle diplomacy, was swiftly welcomed by Israel but was slammed by the Islamist Hamas movement which controls Gaza as an “excuse” for Western-backed Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas to rejoin negotiations that would “only lead to failure”. Moussa said that the Arab ministers had called for a four-month deadline for the indirect talks. “Despite a lack of conviction over Israel’s seriousness, (Arab foreign ministers) will give indirect talks a chance, for the final time, in order to facilitate US efforts, within four months,” he said. “There was a consensus that Israel is not interested in peace, the proof being what is taking place on occupied land… acts which are meant to provoke the Arab and American sides,” he added.

International probe cracks Iran arms smuggling ring

The Times of Oman reported on March 4: Italy has arrested seven people Wednesday on suspicion of trafficking arms to Iran — two Iranians they believe are secret agents and five Italians, police said Wednesday. Italian police worked with authorities in Britain, Romania and Switzerland and made the arrests overnight in several cities. One of those held was an Iranian journalist accredited with Rome’s foreign press club. All four Iranian suspects, including two who remain at large, are believed to be members of the Iranian secret services, police said. The investigation, which began in June, uncovered a ring that sent weapons to Iran from Italy and via third countries. The operation prevented tracer bullets, explosives from eastern Europe and explosive material for incendiary bombs being sent to Iran, as well as 1,000 German-made rifle sights and 120 military diving jackets, police said.

Baker: Israel must withdraw from Arab lands

James Baker

The Palestine Telegraph reported on Thursday: Former US Secretary of State James Baker yesterday praised his country’s current administration for its efforts in trying to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but said Israel must withdraw from most Arab lands in order to maintain its “Jewish” and “democratic” identity. “Israel cannot continue to maintain its Jewish and democratic identity as long as it continues to occupy those Arab lands,” Baker, who was the Secretary of State in the first Bush administration, told reporters in a question and answer session. Baker, who is visiting UAE to open a new office for his law firm Baker Botts in Abu Dhabi, added that the Obama administration’s focus should be to get both parties back to the negotiation table. Baker’s comments came on the same day the Arab League endorsed a US initiative to resume indirect talks between the Israelis and Palestinians. The plan will likely see an American moderator speak with both sides separately, but officials have not disclosed how the process would differ from the past engagement of US Envoy George Mitchell.






Hamas bans men from women’s hair salons

A Hair Salon in Gaza

The Arab News, Saudi Arabia, reports this week: Gaza’s Hamas government on Thursday banned men from working in women’s hair salons. The measure irked one of the victims of the ban. “Next thing you know, they will ban doctors from treating women, and will only let women treat women,” said Barakat Al-Ghoul, a 44-year-old hairdresser. “Tomorrow, they will ban everything.” Al-Ghoul, who has cut women’s hair for 26 years, said a ban would be devastating. He said he has no other way of making a living. Mohammed Fares, a salon owner who employs only women, said the first salons for women sprang up in Gaza in the 1950s. Some of the male stylists have a devoted following, and their customers accept long waiting periods to get appointments. Fares said Hamas’ new ruling takes away one of the last remnants of a more liberal lifestyle in Gaza. Fares said a small pipe bomb was recently set off outside a male hairdresser’s shop, as a warning for him to stop working. Hamas is moving gradually to impose strict customs. In the summer, the resistance movement promoted a “virtue campaign,” urging women to cover up and sending out beach patrols to enforce modest attire.

(Photo Credits: American University- Habeeb.com;  Denis MacShane- Total Politics; James Baker- Wikipedia; Gaza Hair Salon – Jordan Times)

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